Considering My Next Big Award Redemption.. 3 First Class Products in One Easy to Book Award

I’ve discussed at length the American AAdvantage distance-based oneworld awards (now called oneworld explorer awards) in the past.

In addition to the ‘normal’ way you can book an award, with the mileage cost based on the ‘region’ you start from and end in (which is subject to all sorts of rules, like you can’t fly from North America to Asia via Europe, there has to be a published fare between your starting and ending cities, etc) American will allow you to base the mileage cost of your award based on the distance that you fly as long as you only fly on oneworld airlines (and not their other partners like Alaska Airlines or Etihad) and fly on at least two different oneworld airlines (not counting American).

The addition of Malaysia Airlines into oneworld has me contemplating making use of this award… to travel to Europe (and stopover — you are allowed stopovers on these awards without spending more miles) and also Asia.

Here’s the trick. I want to keep the award under 20,000 flown miles, a real sweet spot in their award chart:

For 180,000 miles I can fly first class for up to 20,000 miles. And I can mix and match airlines and route just about any way that I want. (For complete rules and restrictions, see my earlier discussion.)

My thought is to fly British Airways first class to Europe (this entails fuel surcharges, but it’s manageable if I fly them one-way only and as long as I don’t stopover in the U.K. I save big on the extortionate airline passenger duty a.k.a. premium cabin departure tax).

Then I would stopover in Paris, I really enjoyed my recent stay at the Park Hyatt Vendome on points.

The thinking about Paris — in addition to avoiding the UK luxury tax on premium cabin departures — is that Malaysia Airlines often releases a single first class award seat at a time on each of their two daily London – Kuala Lumpur A380 flights, but they seem to release up to four first class seats at a time on Paris – Kuala Lumpur.

So after flying British Airways first class I would add on Malaysia’s first class.

And route back to the U.S. on Cathay Pacific — flying to Hong Kong on either Cathay or Malaysia, and the Cathay back to the States.

Here’s the mileage flown that would entail:

I haven’t decided where I’d stay yet or what I’d do. I’d likely go beyond Kuala Lumpur (although at least stopover for the food)…

… and stop in Hong Kong as well, perhaps taking the opportunity to return to do some eating in Macau (and this time staying at the Grand Hyatt there).

The nice thing is that all three first class products are fairly easy to find space for, at least relative to the difficulty in securing premium cabin award space on other carriers and through other alliances.

That’s my musing about an upcoming redemption. In part I do want to try Malaysia Airlines. I also like to add stopovers along the way. And this owuld be predominantly first class flying, and a reasonable bit of it.

Pricing the awards separately would cost 62,500 to Paris, 70,000 miles from Paris to Malaysia, 32,500 for Kuala Lumpur to Hong kong, and then 67,500 for Hong Kong back to the States… for a total of 232,500 miles.

The oneworld explorer award will save 52,500 miles for the trip (although if I nixed the Hong Kong stopover that would mean building the trip piece-by-piece would cost 200,000 miles… meaning the distance based award would be saving me only 20,000 miles).

Oneworld explorer distance-based awards are great for adding stopovers, since they aren’t pricing each stopvoer as a separate one-way. The more stopovers, the greater the savings (you can have up to 16 flight segments and as many stopovers as you wish within that limit).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I flew MH just 3 weeks ago from Melbourne to Hong Kong via KL because I really wanted to try out their product. If they were awarded their 5 star ranking by Skytrax for their service and hospitality, then I completely agree. However, their business class product is angled lie-flat seats and only their first class cabins have full lie flat beds. There is no first class lounge in KL: business and first class passengers as well as Emerald and Sapphire all share one lounge. Depending on what time of the day you get to the lounge, it can get as packed as the European business lounges. And, they only provide one towel for showering because they don’t stock up enough since they don’t expect many people to take showers (this was what they told me). I’ll dare say that their lounge facilities are worse than many of the European business class ones so don’t expect too much from MH yet. I was disappointed by the lounge and their hard product but their service is truly bar-none.

  2. If for a moment you would visit a place withoutluxury hotels, go to Tioman island. Or north east Terengganu.

  3. Go somewhere new, Gary! A friendly jab, but it would be awesome to see some new destinations on your itinerary. I did Kenya, Madagascar, and Mauritius a few years ago and would highly recommend each, should you have the time. Antananarivo is absolutely stunning….

  4. Ditto that “Zzzzzzzz” comment. So much of these travel blogs are limited to the unimaginative, over-done, cliche’d cities and sites. Probably mostly due to being tied to their use of big hotel chain points. Seems a waste of miles to go re-do all the trip reports we’ve all heard ad nauseum. Paris? Hong Kong? Use your imagination Man. Expand your travel horizons!

  5. While I don’t mind reading about off-beat locations either, I wouldn’t expect it from Gary’s blog. Rather, Gary’s blog is about earning/obtaining points and maximizing their use for high-end travel. He does an excellent job of that and I learned something from this post.

    If these locations bore you, there’s other places you can find that info.

  6. I’d consider a stopover in Penang, more atmospheric than KL and great Sino-Malaysian street food. KUL-PEN on MH is 202 miles and PEN-HKG on CX is 1,487 miles, for a net increase of 114 miles over KUL-HKG, still fitting you in under the cap.

  7. To be clear this isn’t Lucky’s blog. I am not musing about how to come up with trip that no one has done or to perform on stage with that y’all will think is cool. I do not fly just to fly. And so there is no misunderstanding Lucky’s is my favorite blog. But that wasn’t the point of this post. Just sharing what I was thinking about *for myself* and hopefully passing along why I would do it as a distance based award and also what I am seeing for availability on Malaysia.

  8. @Gavin there is definitely a first class side of the Malaysia lounge in KUL I used the one in the satellite terminal in November and reported on it here.

  9. Gary, if i recall you’re DC based. If you’d have to pay for DC-NYC-DC (cash or 9000 Avios) consider the following:

    DCA-JFK-LHR-CDG-KUL-HKG-ORD clocks in at 19741, giving you a few more miles to wiggle in asia if you want and then an easy ORD-WAS costs only 7500 avios. Just a thought. Save some avios and take no risk on the outbound connection if there were any — often you write about taking an early flight or a flight the night before so you don’t miss the start of a trip…

  10. ETA: actually WAS-LHR-CDG-KUL-HKG-ORD is similar mileage, but F space on IAD-LHR seems a bit harder to get.

  11. I’ve had good luck with IAD – LHR F space generally. The suggestion you make is a good one but what I didn’t get into in this post is the likelihood that I use my one open jaw allowed elsewhere.

    I mentioned using these cities as a base for other travel.. I might start and end in DC and use Avios for some short segments intra Asia.

  12. @ Gary

    That’s interesting cause I showed them my Exec Plat/Emerald card and they said no first class lounge. Darn it!

  13. No offense intended, @Gary – I’d just love to see you explore some new corners of the world eventually. There is so much out there to discover, and still utilize F award inventory.

  14. The whole idea of the miles and points game is to be able to go where you want to go. And most of us reading VFW prefer to do so at a level of comfort and even luxury that we couldn’t otherwise afford. If that is what interests you, Gary’s blog is unsurpassed. Anyone coming here looking for TRs involving trekking the Himalayas, or walking the Inca Trail in Peru, really has no idea what this blog is all about.

    I thought the essence of this post was great. Here is how you can get to where you want to go with the most flexibility and least cost in miles. Then you pick whatever destination you personally prefer.

    For those wanting “aspirational” luxury travel, this blog is perfect. For those wanting unusual or adventure travel, start with VFW for info on how to get and use miles for award tickets. Then find other blogs that cover adventure destinations to use those award tickets for.

    Personally, I’ve gone to Paris nearly every year for several decades. While I’m sure Madagascar would be interesting, there’s no way I’m giving up Paris for Antananarivo. There is a reason why the “cliche” destinations are cliche destinations. It’s because the museums, restaurants, stores, markets, hotels and infrastructure are far superior to other places. Yes, Buenos Aires was modeled on European capitals, but for me, one week there was enough. Paris will fascinate me forever.

    I am however, making my first visit to Spain this June, so if anyone knows of TRs for Madrid, Seville, Grenada, and Barcelona from other blogs, I’d appreciate being linked to them.

  15. @David I’ve been to Burma and Laos, I’ve been to Vietnam, I think I’ve done some of the less traveled places in Asia. I’ve certainly been around Europe. I’ve done some decent travel in South America. True I could spend time in Africa and expand my horizons a bit, but for a variety of reasons (some having to do with work) that holds limited appeal.

  16. Gary, I take back my previous comment. I sometimes forget that not everyone is a full-blogger. I agree, lucky pens my favorite blog, but you’re blog is a close second. I’m looking forward to your review on MH F. I also owe my upcoming trip to PH Maldives to you. Thanks!

  17. I think plotting out European destinations is great and if the Bohemians don’t like Paris well then they can……………

    Introducing the distance based OneWorld award is a very useful blog entry and doesn’t need any change to be useful to the ” above average” aspirational traveler…………

  18. Gary, how does one calculate the distance flown? The 180K F trip sounds great – I wonder if the following route is under 20K and can be had for 180K.

    or perhaps I should do KUL-LHR to shave off some miles?

  19. Awesome idea, you get in under 20,000 miles, great product to try out, and fun places to visit. Way to go Gary, thank you for putting up this post, I look forward to hearing about all of these travels.

    Just an idea, you mention up to 4 seats in F out of CDG, and I know BA opens up a lot in F. Cathay is only 2 seats. Any way you can come up with a trip that allows you to have 4 F seats be it OneWorld or Star Alliance around the world, or at least N.A-Europe-Asia. I am sure a lot of people out there with families or close friends would love to hear your ideas.



  20. @PedroNY – 4 in F is always much harder it used to be possble with LH and BA used to do it frequently as well but they’re tighter than they used to be also (plus fuel surcharges x 4 gets rough!). But BA -> MH for 4 is doable from some gateways, check out PHL and IAH for BA. CX will open up seats truly last minute on a flight if they happen to still be available, but far in advance I don’t think I’ve seen more than 3 for long haul. There’s AA…

  21. @Gary

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Haters gonna hate.

    Don’t forget that with one of the CitiAAdvantage cards, you’ll get 10,000 AA miles back from this redemption. So your total miles spent will only be 170,000.

    I’ve booked an explorer award last year for flights this year, and they gave me my 10k miles back last year. So this year I get another chance to get 10k AA miles redeemed back into my account.

  22. Thanks for the great idea. I need 4 seats between NYC and South East Asia using OW miles this summer, (ultimate destination will probably be Bali) and I had pretty much given up on finding 4 seats on any CX or JL flight. I was able to pretty easily put together an itinerary on BA-MH (JFK-LHR-KUL v.v) and able to get 4 seats in F on almost every leg (with one MH leg with 1 seat in J). Its not really a perfect routing, and the surcharges and taxes are sub-optimal, but I was happy to get seats, and especially happy to get on the MH A380.

    The snag is that once they added up the miles, it came in at 20,085, and that last 85 miles is going to cost me a marginal 200K miles to redeem. Any solution to this?

    By the way, can somebody please explain how to take advantage of the AA credit card 10K mile award rebate — I’ve got an AA MC and Visa, but I’m unfamiliar with that benefit. Many thanks again.

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